A new study published in the journal Gut suggests that a high-quality diet at the age of one may significantly reduce the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) later in life. The research indicates that consuming plenty of fish and vegetables, while minimizing the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, may play a key role in protecting against IBD.
The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease, which includes conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is on the rise globally. Although the exact cause for this increase is unknown, changes in dietary habits are believed to contribute to this trend due to their impact on the gut microbiome.
While previous studies have explored the relationship between diet and IBD risk in adults, there is limited research on the potential influence of early childhood diet on the development of the disease.
To address this knowledge gap, the researchers analyzed data from two large studies: the All Babies in Southeast Sweden study (ABIS) and The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). These studies included a total of 135,200 children and their parents.
Parents participating in the studies provided information about their children’s diet at ages 12-18 months and 30-36 months. The researchers assessed the quality of the children’s diets based on their intake of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, dairy, sweets, snacks, and drinks, using a modified version of the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scoring system. They also collected data on other factors, such as age at weaning, antibiotic use, and formula feed intake.
The analysis included data from 81,280 one-year-olds. The results showed that a higher diet quality, characterized by increased consumption of vegetables, fruit, and fish, and decreased consumption of meat, sweets, snacks, and drinks, was associated with a higher HEI score. The total score was categorized into low, medium, and high-quality diets.
Over an average follow-up period of 21 years, 307 children were diagnosed with IBD. The researchers found that children with medium and high-quality diets at the age of one had a 25% lower risk of developing IBD compared to those with a low-quality diet. This association remained significant even after adjusting for factors like parental history of IBD, the child’s sex, ethnic origin, and maternal education.
Furthermore, specific dietary components were found to have individual effects on IBD risk. High fish intake at the age of one was associated with a lower overall risk of IBD, as well as a 54% lower risk of ulcerative colitis specifically. Consumption of more vegetables at one year of age was also linked with a reduced risk of IBD. On the other hand, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a 42% higher risk.
Based on these findings, the authors suggest that doctors should consider recommending a preventive diet for infants, as there is mounting evidence supporting the role of early dietary choices in reducing the risk of IBD.
In conclusion, a high-quality diet during early childhood, characterized by increased consumption of fish and vegetables, and reduced consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, may have a significant impact on reducing the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease later in life. These findings highlight the importance of early dietary choices in promoting long-term health and preventing chronic inflammatory conditions like IBD.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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